Midwest Junto visits Galileo’s World

Galileo’s signed copy of Sidereus Nuncius, a 1/10th scale model of the Tower of Pisa, and an 18th century pocket sundial were some of the materials on view for attendees of this year’s Midwest Junto for the History of Science, held in Norman, at the University of Oklahoma, 1-3 April. The 59th meeting of the Junto was hosted by the Department of the History of Science and the History of Science Collections, with generous support provided by our Midwest neighbor, the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City. Over sixty participants, comprising a healthy mix of faculty and graduate students (and even a number of undergraduates) attended the presentations.

This year’s Junto was the sixth one to be held in Norman, and took place just a few months after a major renovation to the University of Oklahoma Libraries’ special collections space and home of the OU History of Science Collections on the fifth floor of the Bizzell Memorial Library. The renovation created a dedicated exhibit space and framed the launch of our first major exhibition, Galileo’s World, a campus-wide endeavor of 20 exhibits in seven locations across all three OU campuses for the university’s 125th anniversary.

Junto attendees got their first look at the renovation and the Galileo’s World exhibition during a reception on Friday evening, sponsored by the University of Oklahoma Libraries. The reception was held in our newly enlarged lobby, an expansive, welcoming space from which visitors can find their way to our new Exhibit Hall on one side, or make their way to the Duane H. D. Roller Reading Room on the other side. The Reading Room is named after the first Curator of the OU History of Science Collections and one of the Junto founders. Posters chronicling past visiting speakers were on display here, showcasing OU’s deep history and connections to the field.

Hunter Heyck, Chair of the Department of the History of Science, welcomed attendees, who included several first-timers, as well as many Junto veterans. Kerry Magruder, Curator of the History of Science Collections and Galileo’s World, gave an overview of the new exhibit space and associated initiatives.

Renovation of the exhibit space in the libraries to showcase special collections materials was a key goal of Galileo’s World. Another goal was the fostering of collaboration across campus and across disciplines.

Attendees of the Midwest Junto’s 2016 conference

Attendees of the Midwest Junto’s 2016 conference, in front of the Tower of Pisa reproduction in the Galileo’s World exhibit at the University of Oklahoma

Throughout the weekend, activities and events extended beyond the library to multiple sites, showcasing the contributions of some of our Galileo’s World partners: the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, the Fred Jones Junior Museum of Art, and the National Weather Center. Graduate students from the Department of the History of Science who were heavily involved in Galileo’s World planning and outreach activities led exhibit tours at Sam Noble (James Burns – Galileo and the Microscope) and Fred Jones (Brent Purkaple – Artful Observation of the Cosmos).

The individual sessions for paper presentations were held in the OU Libraries’ Peggy V. Helmerich Collaborative Learning Center, and continued through Sunday morning. Linda Hall Library generously sponsored the coffee breaks and provided goody bags for participants (Ben Gross did a great job of tweeting).

Galileo’s World exhibition

A portrait of Galileo greets visitors to the Galileo’s World exhibition in the orientation theater of the Barbara Brite Paul Grand Foyer in the Bizzell Memorial Library on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.

For over five decades, the Junto has provided an opportunity for graduate students to present their work in a supportive and congenial setting, encouraging them to meet faculty and students from other programs. This year, papers were presented by students from Creighton University, New York University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Faculty from the University of Oklahoma chaired the six paper sessions, and one contributed a paper to one of the sessions. As is typical for the Junto, the papers reflected a wide range of topics, time periods, and approaches: astronomy and mathematics in the early modern period; histories of medicine, public health and human difference; and early-20th century archaeology, scientific networks & the public arena. (For the full program see the Junto website.)

Saturday evening’s festivities were held in the atrium of the National Weather Center. Attendees enjoyed conversation and meals at tables surrounded by display cases of rare books from the History of Science Collections, meteorological instruments, and an exhibit on Oklahomans and Space.

Each year the Junto organizing committee invites a scholar to give the Stuart Pierson Memorial Lecture at the annual banquet. This year’s speaker, Aparna Nair, the newest member of the faculty of the Department of the History of Science, shared some of her work in disability studies and colonial history in a talk titled “From Oriental Braille to Bharatiya Braille: Technologies for the Blind, Imperial Authority and Missionary Schools in British India, 1850-1940.”

During the morning session on Sunday, participants recognized long-time Junto member Marjorie C. Malley (1941-2016) for her contributions to the organization. Marjorie was involved with the Junto for many years, as organizer, contributor and participant. (An In Memoriam on Marjorie can be found here.)

During the business meeting incoming Junto President Kathleen Sheppard announced that next year’s meeting will take place at Indiana University in Bloomington. This meeting promises to be a significant event, as it will be the 60th gathering of the Midwest Junto for the History of Science.

As a member of the local organizing committee, I would like to thank my colleagues at the University of Oklahoma and the Linda Hall Library, the Junto officers, and everyone who helped make the meeting a success with their contributions and participation.